What does it mean to be...

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What does it mean to be...

Unread postby dymlos timbre » Fri Oct 23, 2009 9:53 pm

"Unamerican" i have bee ndebateing with someone i know about what i means to be Unamerican, i say it is the betrayal of the country in the act to better another. She says it is to defy the constitution, i told her to defy the constitution is to be Unconstitutional but she beleives they are one in the same, I think everyone has thier own Opinion on what is "Unamerican" but defying the constitution is not one of them since it has been done in the past to bring about change.

What do you think is "Unamerican"?? and do you think Being Unconstitutional is also Unamerican???
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:04 pm

The United States are unique* among nations in that the core of the national consciousness has historically rested in a set of civic ideals (including but not limited to representative government, individual and social responsibility and civil rights) rather than in a single racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic identity. The Constitution is reflective of these ideals, but it has also evolved historically to better accommodate those ideals as they have been realised: rights and responsibilities have been extended progressively to wider and wider groups, such as women, blacks, non-Christians and people whose first language is not English. The actions of the United States government and people have not, of course, always reflected these ideals, but those ideals have pretty much always been there in the national consciousness.

Thus, in my definition of un-American I would have to include activities or beliefs that conflict with or run counter to these ideals - discrimination against others on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic identity, for example, or the abdication of one's individual or social responsibilities.

(*There is still an argument to be made that certain other federative national entities have had similar roots in a set of ideals as opposed to ethno-linguistic identity, such as Switzerland or the erstwhile Soviet Union.)
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:19 pm

dymlos timbre wrote:What do you think is "Unamerican"?? and do you think Being Unconstitutional is also Unamerican???


I agree with most of what Wei said. I think both you are you're friend are also correct. Certainly, being a traitor (which I think is what you were implying) is being un-American, in a very strict sense. However, "American" as a set of ideas is certainly embedded in the Constitution. Now, no one can be 'unconstitutional'. Laws are unconstitutional, and perhaps acts..but not people. However, they are correct if they are saying that acts/ideas/laws which conflict with the Constitution are, to a degree, un-American. However, thats not to say that there can't be ideas that aren't present in the Constitution that are therefore un-American. But America, as a country and national identity, relies on certain principles. Those are embodied in law in the Constitution.

My definition of being un-American is merely partcipating in acts of belief which round contrary to American principles of freedom, equality, and other principles.
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby Kristina » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:53 pm

Personally, I don't think there can be such a thing as Un-American. There are just far too many ideals and beliefs in this country. Someone that is prejudiced could believe that his beliefs are the right American ones. And for a time, being prejudiced against African Americans -was- American. That was the only way that America knew. I feel that somethinf that was once American is always going to be American. Not that I support prejudice in any form. It's just part of the formula that gave us the idea of American that we have today.
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:07 pm

Kristina wrote:Personally, I don't think there can be such a thing as Un-American.


I have to disagree. I think, for instance, being against freedom of speech or against any of the core tenant's America was founded upon, would be considered un-American. I don't think being American is defined by our habits, like eating fast-food or driving large cars. Rather it is defined in our political ideologies which make such habits possible.
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby Kristina » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:19 pm

Hmm. . .I'm not sure how to say what's on my mind clearly at the moment. I'll try anyways, and eventually sense will come out of it. At least, that's how it has worked in the past,lol.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that although we have those core beliefs, those beliefs have been altered or restricted in the name of America. Some of the restrictions were done to protect the American way of life, others were just ignorant mistakes. For whatever reason, those beliefs were suspended.
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:36 pm

Kristina wrote:I guess what I'm trying to say is that although we have those core beliefs, those beliefs have been altered or restricted in the name of America. Some of the restrictions were done to protect the American way of life, others were just ignorant mistakes. For whatever reason, those beliefs were suspended.


They may have been in certain instances at certain times. That merely means that un-American things happen in America. That is true. It doesn't alter what is American.
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby Kristina » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:15 pm

I understand what you're saying. . .But I'm gunna have to stick to my original opinion on this one.
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Nov 23, 2009 5:46 pm

Kristina wrote:Personally, I don't think there can be such a thing as Un-American. There are just far too many ideals and beliefs in this country. Someone that is prejudiced could believe that his beliefs are the right American ones. And for a time, being prejudiced against African Americans -was- American. That was the only way that America knew. I feel that somethinf that was once American is always going to be American. Not that I support prejudice in any form. It's just part of the formula that gave us the idea of American that we have today.


The problem with this argument is that it presumes that social identity-formation boils down only to individual beliefs, when it doesn't. There are and should be such things as normative behaviours within a community, and the values served by such behaviours (whether peace, equality or civility). Yes, in the past there was an incredibly perverse, costly and unsustainable ideological contradiction within America's construction - that of slavery, which came into conflict with the concepts of human autonomy and dignity with which white Americans justified the existence of their nation. That ideological contradiction is still with us today in the form of racism and prejudice. But just because this historical contradiction exists does not mean that the American social identity-formation is in and of itself unreal. We have to deal responsibly with history, that is true. But America has evolved in such a way that slavery is eliminated and racism has been relegated to a more-or-less defensive marginal position (though racists are currently taking advantage of the breakup of civility norms and find safe havens on, for example, FOX News and right-wing forums and blogs). Thus, going forward, prejudice and racism are un-American, in that they are generally considered to violate the norms of our community life and the values our nation holds as central.
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Re: What does it mean to be...

Unread postby agga » Tue Nov 24, 2009 4:34 am

WeiWenDi wrote:The problem with this argument is that it presumes that social identity-formation boils down only to individual beliefs, when it doesn't. There are and should be such things as normative behaviours within a community, and the values served by such behaviours (whether peace, equality or civility).


you're right in your general argument that social identity is a specific thing that can change over time. but also, you have to remember that individuals are capable of a good deal of self-deception and can tolerate a lot of cognitive dissonance. there are public and private, or conscious and subconscious if you like, parts of social identity. the fact that certain behaviors are proscribed publicly, or consciously, doesn't mean that they are no longer part of the identity - open racism may be proscribed in the US today, but it is still very present, and in a very particularly American form - it certainly is part of the national identity, possibly in a complex form such as a struggle over racial concepts, etc..

you also presume a sort of a wholeness to 'Americanism' that may not actually exist, or which may exist in an extremely reduced form, one which could hardly be called an 'identity'. is a national identity a set of ideals which are held in common by all members of the nation? how many members must reject an ideal in order for it to no longer be considered a part of the identity?

for that matter, if a certain part of the national identity exists beyond individual beliefs, can people who are *not* members of the nation help to define it? if most foreigners *think* that Americans are secret racists, does this contribute to our identity? i would certainly say that a part of the American identity is for individuals to believe that they aren't racists when secretly, subconsciously, they actually are... 'normative behaviors' often have dark sides, which are no less valid, and may be more so..
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